The brace of James Gaskell sets Wasps on the way to his first loss against Exeter


ExeterSimon McIntyre and James Gaskell score two tries each for Wasps 34-5

A tactical victory for Wasps head coach Lee Blackett was the bonus-point win over the Premiership and European champions.

It showed how far, in the last eleven months, the team has come under him. They have grown into a pragmatic, adaptable and hard-nosed all-weather side from a side that was dedicated to open rugby and too often left to their own devices. Joe Launchbury hopes physicality will drive Wasps and give the Lions a chance. Read more In the last two rounds, two fiercely fighting sides have won at Sale and beaten Exeter soundly.

Blackett said that in October’s final, he was not motivated by vengeance for the narrow loss, but wanted to make a point. His picks were tailored to the opponent. From the second to the back row, James Gaskell was transferred, offensive flanker Thomas Young sat as a backup on the bench and the defense was the springboard to victory. The Chiefs tried to dominate the physical competition and did so to such a degree that there was no aspect of the game in which the Chiefs were superior. Gaskell added height to the lineout of the home side and was able to defuse the drive maul of Exeter better. Wasps now resembled the champions, defending their own line with passion, playing a good scrummaging game after prop Tom West had conquered early challenges, and even scoring the first attempt of the game with a favorite Chiefs trick, the “tap penalty” scored by Gaskell, who later added a second, after West had been held up by his captain Joe Launchbury over the line. Exeter had previously repelled a rolling maul, but then they had to yield to their opponents’ relentless controlled ferocity, who stuck to their script: injuries and international rest meant that in last October’s heavy defeat, there were more players from the 23-man roster of the Chiefs than in the final three weeks later. Exeter had to dig deep to find a way back into the game, but there was no weak link There was still a penalty kick for the Chiefs and they were well positioned after 30 minutes when Launchbury, who had led all along by example, initiated a break down the side and found himself defending a lineout five meters from his own line. Exeter’s rolling maul and a try are like day after night, but Gaskell got his hand to the ball and kept it as the line waved. A few minutes later, when Jacob Umaga created a rare break that released Paolo Odogwu, who was brought down five meters from the test line by Olly Woodburn. Wasps had to settle for a Lima Sopoaga penalty that gave them an 8-0 interval lead after Dave Ewers was taken off his feet at a ruck. Wasps were awarded a scrum, cleared their lines and could have increased their lead. With eight of the first ten scrums resulting in a penalty or free kick, there was no open play, and both sides made plenty of unforced handling mistakes on a day when sleet briefly gave way to sunshine. Charles Piutau and Siva Naulago help Bristol end the unbeaten start of more The question was whether Wasps could keep their hostility going. After the England flanker sustained a side strain, they were forced to replace Jack Willis with Young at half-time, while Exeter brought on Welsh striker Tomas Francis four minutes after the restart. In the Premiership, the Chiefs have never gone without conceding and scored when Joe Simmonds slipped between the two uprights of the hosts. Richard Capstick stepped in front of Will Rowlands when he was tackled by Dan Robson and took advantage of a poor tackle by Sopoaga to score from 40 meters. That required a response from Wasps and it came. In the space of six minutes, they scored two attempts, first through Gaskell again, who finished off a pass from Umaga inside to busy replacement prop Jeff Toomaga-Allen.

When Sopoaga completed a line-out shift that saw Michael Le Bourgeois build space for Josh Bassett, Launchbury was again interested, leaving Ian Whitten unaware of the direction to switch. Wasps were well served by their substitutes.

On an afternoon when his side conceded 18 penalties, Simon McIntyre scored the final two tries, the first after Capstick sat in the sin-bin. Blackett said, “We wanted to make a statement,”


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